I was determined to give myself a gift at the end of 5 years of seminary, church internship, military chaplain basic training, hospital internship and hospice residency… and I did not know what I wanted. Could I be craving a vacation on a beach in the Caribbean? Well, always… but I doubt I will ever have either the money or the time. Perhaps I would have liked a spiritual retreat in a Buddhist monastery somewhere? Actually, that seemed a bit too much like more ministerial formation to be a reward for 5 years of ministerial formation. Maybe a short trip to see an NHL game? That would have been nice, but living in Michigan that would have meant the Red Wings… and I despise the Red Wings…
I can say that openly now, since I’m moving to California in a few weeks… It has been a hard year, living in enemy territory. No self-respecting Colorado Avalanche fan would ever go to a Red Wings game unless the Av’s were playing them… and wearing my Av’s jersey in Detroit is probably not the safest thing I could have done this year. Especially when the Av’s are struggling… but they’ll be back!
So, after much discernment, I decided upon the gift that I wanted to give myself for graduating from Meadville, for completing my Residency at Advocate Lutheran General, and for receiving Preliminary Fellowship as a Unitarian Universalist Minister… I wanted a year of focusing on reading Science Fiction.
You see, all through seminary, residency, and internship, my love of Science Fiction had to take a backseat to the reading of texts on theology, ecclesiology, history, pastoral theory, social justice, scripture, world religions, psychology, military theory, and adaptive leadership. There were months on end where I averaged 5-7 books a week, all of them in this realm. I watched movies that were part of my seminary formation, read articles in pastoral care journals, and attended classes and lectures on everything from bio-medical ethics to comparative scriptural study between the Gospels of John and Thomas.
I desperately needed a mental break… a vacation for my mind and for my imagination… and that break came in the person of Duchess Admiral Dame Honor Harrington, Steadholder Harrington.
For the last year, I have read, in order, the entire “Honorverse” military sci-fi series by David Weber. This is not the first time I’ve read these books… I read most of them as they came out since the early 90’s… but this was the first time I have sat down and read all 21 currently existing novels in this series in order, one after another. The series is not done, there are at least 4 more books expected in the coming two-three years… although it is likely that the story line is coming to a time of major transformation.
I found my first book in the series “On Basilisk Station”, on a free give-away bookshelf at the Mobilization Station at Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1996… as I was preparing to deploy to Germany and then to Bosnia as a part of Operation Joint Endeavor/Guard. I knew nothing about it when I picked it up, only that I was intrigued by a “space-battle” Sci-Fi novel where the Hero is actually a Heroine. I quickly fell in love with the characters… not just Honor herself but her “very direct” treecat, Nimitz.
More, I was fascinated by the interactions of the political and religious systems that David Weber creates in the Honorverse. The series explores topics of human worth, of interdependence, of social transformation, and of the limitations of political and religious systems… all while offering a vision of a gender-equal society contrasted with a very gender stratified society… and how those two societies transform one another.
I’m not doing the series justice with this short reflection, nor am I trying to. I also have to admit that I did not read the series to explore the issues. It is just fun… a “Playground for the Mind” as Larry Niven once put it. Honor Harrington is a Heroine who contains within herself the capacity for tremendous good… and tremendous evil… As the author himself says, her personality and abilities with a different upbringing and with a different sense of duty and honor could have been a tyrant and a monster… Instead, she is a very, very human Heroine.
It has been a wonderful vacation for my mind, this year with Honor. I simply want to thank David Weber, and Jim Baen at Baen Publishing, for bringing this brightness into my life these past fifteen years.
Yours in Faith,